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Archive for April 13th, 2009

Texas U.S. Atty. Johnny Sutton Departing April 19

U.S. Atty. Johnny Sutton

U.S. Atty. Johnny Sutton

Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Atty. Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas,who found himself embroiled in controversy when he prosecuted two border patrol agents, has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday to discuss his 7 1/2 year tenure. His last day is April 19.

Sutton, who oversaw an office of 140 attorneys, assumed the post in November 2001. During his tenure his office prosecuted a number of high profile cases and won convictions of a former Texas Attorney General and two San Antonio City Council members.

A press release said his office  led the nation each year in the number of drug prosecutions and was second in the nation in the number of illegal alien cases prosecuted.

Conservatives were angry at Sutton for convicting two Border Patrol agents, who covered up the shooting of an unarmed drug smuggler near El Paso. The agents,  Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, were convicted of shooting the dealer and later lying about it. They got 10 year sentences.

President Bush, responding to cries for their freedom, commuted their sentences in January.

Afterwards, in a carefully worded statement, Sutton  praised Pres. Bush for cutting the sentences, but upholding the conviction.

“Today, the President exercised his power under the Constitution to grant executive clemency to former Border Patrol Agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos,” Sutton said in the statement. “Like the trial judge and the court that reviewed the cases on appeal, President Bush found that Compean and Ramos were justly convicted of serious crimes and that their status as convicted felons should remain in place.”

Boston Globe Columnist Blasts Justice Dept. For Blowing Off Victim’s Family in Murder Involving Mobster Whitey Bulger

Whitey Bulger

Whitey Bulger

The ugly chapter involving the questionable relationship between mobster Whitey Bulger and the FBI continues to rear its head in Boston. It seems the Justice Dept. has to owe up to the facts of the case and move on. Boston Globe Columnist Kevin Cullen feels the Justice Department isn’t doing that. He says the department is essentially telling a victim’s family to “drop dead”. Here’s the story.
By Kevin Cullen
Boston Globe Columnist
BOSTON
— You may recall reading in this space not long ago about the family of Michael Donahue, a truck driver from Dorchester who was murdered on the South Boston waterfront 27 years ago by the gangster Whitey Bulger with a very generous assist from the FBI.

The day after the column appeared, lawyers for the US Justice Department informed lawyers for the Donahue family that the government was going to ignore a judge’s recommendation to settle a lawsuit for getting Michael Donahue killed.

In essence, the government told the Donahues to drop dead. It wants to retry the damages part and force the family to go through the whole rigmarole again, on the pretext that the recent death of Judge Reggie Lindsay somehow changes the fact that Lindsay found the FBI liable for causing the murder of Michael Donahue while protecting its prized snitch Whitey Bulger.

 For Full Story

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald Makes Esquire’s “The List of Men”

img_01381By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has fashioned himself as a modern day Eliott Ness, finds himself this month in the company of such mega-names as Russell Crowe, the Dalai Lama, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springstein, Bill Clinton and Chris Rock.

Fitzgerald is included in Esquire’s  May issue (it’s on the stands already) in a section “The List of Men”.

Under a rather prominent photo of him, the magazine writes: “When Fitzgerald serves you, consider yourself served. He brought down Scooter Libby, Conrad Black, and then Blago. Wither thou goest, Alberto Gonzales, we all hope Fitz goes with thee.”

Another person who made the list is James Comey, who was deputy Atty. General under Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft.

Of Comey, the magazine wrote:
“This guy dove in front of the pen when Bush’s goons tried to get a hospitalized Ashcroft to reinvent the Constitution while lodged in the haze of a Versed hangover. Bush did it anyway, relegating Comey to being the best damn lawyer in Palookaville. For doing his job. Trying to tell the truth. Google him.”

Former Fed Prosecutor Doesn’t Think There’s a Systemic Integrity Problem at Dept. of Justice

Stephanie GallagherBy Stephanie Gallagher
Fraud With Peril Blog

The Department of Justice has had several high-profile incidents in the past few weeks calling into question the integrity of its prosecutors – specifically the aftermath of the Ted Stevens trial, during which prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, and the Shaygan trial in Miami, during which prosecutors and agents secretly taped the defense attorney’s conversations with his client. These incidents have caused some to question whether there is a systemic problem within DOJ causing prosecutors to ignore some of the most basic principles guiding the fair pursuit of justice.

I think the answer is no.

In my experience on both sides of the playing field, I have seen several examples of attorneys, for whom I have immense respect, who have come quite close to or crossed lines on occasion, either in the zealous representation of a client or in prosecuting a defendant who appears unquestionably guilty of serious crimes.

To Read More

It’s Bear Bile and That Ain’t No Bull

istock_000002480272xsmallBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

By most estimations, most folks wouldn’t risk going to jail for this.

But Seongja Hyun, a Korean national living in Los Angeles, isn’t like most folks. She  faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on federal charges of  importing nearly a kilogram of bear bile harvested in China, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Hyun, a who was arrested late last month,  was charged with the illegal importation of wildlife in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the investigation began last month when Customs and Border Protection agents seized a package at the U.S. Postal Service San Francisco International Mail Facility.

The package, which came from China, contained  ” four bags of a dark green crystalline substance believed to be bear bile, along with empty vials and labels for the bear bile”, authorities charged.

After Hyun received the package, federal agents interviewed the South Korean woman, who admitted selling the bile to other people, authorities said.  Investigators also found additional bear bile, vials and packaging.

“Bear bile is typically extracted from living bears kept in cages in China and other countries by inserting a tube into the bear’s gallbladder,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release. ” Bear bile is considered by some to be a medicinal product and is typically consumed to treat various ailments or to act as an aphrodisiac.”

Bears are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty that has been signed by more than 150 countries, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Ted Stevens Prosecution Was Flawed for Reasons Including Inexperience.

ted-stevens2-photoFor some time to come, people are likely to dissect and analyze the failures of the government in the ex-Sen. Ted Stevens case, which resulted in a conviction that was later voided by an angry judge. It wouldn’t be shocking in the end to see someone in the government charged criminally — or at minimum, disciplined or fired.  Meanwhile, one question lingers: Does the government owe Ted Stevens a formal apology? Good question considering some still think he was guilty of wrongdoing.

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department team charged with prosecuting former senator Ted Stevens miscalculated by not seeking more time to prepare for the high-stakes corruption trial and fell victim to inexperience and thin staffing, which contributed to its alleged mishandling of witnesses and evidence, according to interviews with more than a dozen lawyers who followed the case.

Last year’s compressed trial timeline forced government lawyers to jam their preparations into seven weeks and intensified a series of challenges: the late addition of a new lawyer; an aggressive adversary who deluged them with requests for documents; and a skeptical judge whose behavior turned unpredictable, then punitive.

The difficulties led U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan last week to dismiss a conviction against Stevens, a Republican who represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate for nearly 40 years, and to turn the tables and initiate a criminal probe of six of the prosecutors.

Former prosecutors, defense lawyers and onetime Justice Department officials also described more chronic liabilities in the department’s Public Integrity Section: Once the “A Team” for fighting corruption in state legislatures, judges’ chambers and Congress, the unit in recent years lost staffing, strong supervision, some of its varnish and its insulation from politics.

For Full Story

Law Professor Says Justice Dept. Needs a Better Compliance Program

By Professor Ellen S. Podgor
White Collar Crime Prof Blog

justice-logo1A “not guilty” verdict was returned on a drug case in Miami, but what happened during the investigation and prosecution of this case has now resulted in an award of $601,795.88 under the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment allows for attorney fees when a “prevailing criminal defendant” can demonstrate “that the position the government took in prosecuting him was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith.” (see Order, infra, citing U.S. v. Gilbert).

Hon. Alan S. Gold, in the Southern District of Florida, issued an Order awarding these attorney fees and enjoined the US Attorneys who practice in that court from “engaging in future witness tampering investigation of defense lawyers and team members in any ongoing prosecution before [this judge] without first bringing such matters to [the judge’s] attention in an ex parte proceeding.”

The judge also issued a public reprimand against the US Attorneys office and specifically 2 AUSAs. And it does not end there, as the judge also makes it clear that a disciplinary body needs to review this matter. (Court’s Order – Download 08-20112 (Shaygan) Prosecutorial Misconduct FINAL )

The judge presents a thoughtful Order that gives credit to the USA’s office for taking “immediate efforts to investigate” this matter when it came to light.

To Read More